When it comes to iconic dive watches, few individual pieces, let alone brands at large, possess the pedigree and character akin to that of Doxa. Having adorned the wrists of Jacques Cousteau and fictional character Dirk Pitt, there is little left for the imagination in terms of what their watches are capable of enduring.
If I’ve ever had a watch that I bought initially under, and due to, the influence of alcohol, immediately felt a sense of “what have I done”, and then fell in love with more than I could have ever conceived, that’d be the Caribbean Doxa Sub 200. It may not be the signature “fat” cushion case with the integrated no-decompression dive time calculator, nor does it wear the signature orange dial that made Doxa stand out from the rest back in 1967, but one thing it certainly is not, is boring.
Initially at face value, it’s your standard issue dive watch with your usual checks in the right boxes. But as any watch geek would know, we never “fall” for a watch as a result of its specs sheet, but rather the way you feel when it’s on your wrist, we obsess over the most minute details, the little, split second glances that make you smile. The SUB 200 does just that, while not breaking the bank and delivers value at the top of its class.
The SUB 200 is what I like to call the gateway drug to the world of what Doxa has to offer. It delivers the rugged, utilitarian construction to take on the seas, or in my case, crashing into the ground on a zip line, that Doxa is known for, while being understated enough to take on the boardroom. That is unless you’ve opted for the Orange or Aquamarine variants of course. It is a faithful recreation of the original released at Baselworld in 1967, with the signature domed crystal and beads of rice bracelet, with modern additions such as the use of a sapphire crystal and bezel, with a generous AR coating to name a few.
Onto the elephant in the room, the dial, which despite its matte finish, is nothing short of dynamic. While it’s not one to reflect the light, such as the likes of a sunburst dial, it appears to almost absorb it as it delivers hues of an almost-black navy to a bright blue, akin to that of perhaps the shores of a Caribbean island. The applied polished indices beautifully frame the lume plots as do the lume-filled polished hands. This combination of polished surfaces against the matte dial seem to complement each other wonderfully while not fighting for the wearer’s attention. Almost by accident, I’ve come to realise that whenever the dial takes on a darker shade of blue, it so happens that the hands and indices catch the light in its place and gleam against the dark backdrop. Similarly, when the dial takes on a shade of a brighter blue, it just so happens that at this light and angle, the polished surfaces are much more subdued and almost disappear into the dial with the creamy lume ensuring legibility while letting the dial at large take center-stage.
On the topic of lume, which naturally commands attention on a dive watch, it was a nice to see that its application was not only limited to the usual hands and indices, but also the five-minute markers under the sapphire bezel. However, I find that the lume on the bezel is significantly dimmer than that of the hands and indices. Likewise, I noticed that the lume on the indices was noticeably dimmer than that of the hands. That being said, the lume on the hands isn’t incredibly bright either and to top it off, the longevity of the lume was underwhelming. But all things considered, without trying to sound too biased, it’s a small price to pay.
Another area of divide that I’ve noticed on the lume front, that is shared among many re-creations of historically inspired watches is the use of “faux-tina”. While the creamy shade of lume on the SUB 200 is quite subtle in comparison to some of its peers, it’s still a point worth mentioning. Personally however, while I’m not an avid fan of faux-tina myself, it actually contrasts quite well against the blue dial and bezel and adds to that sense of character in this instance. It’s safe to say, that the lume looks better during the day, than at night.
Speaking of areas of divide, there’s the SUB 200’s bezel. More specifically the bezel action. It is undeniably one of the most tactile bezels out there and has no tolerance for wiggle room in between its very audible clicks. However, this comes at the price of the bezel being quite stiff to rotate and this coupled with the somewhat sharp bezel edge, isn’t the most comfortable to use. If, like me, you’re one to enjoy playing with the bezel of your dive watch and essentially using it as an overpriced fidget spinner to satisfy your ADHD, well, unless you have muscular and callused fingers, you won’t be using this bezel for fun. In a nutshell, I would say it comes down to whether you are willing to accept that the bezel will be there for when you need it, not essentially when you want it.
Moving beyond the dial and the bezel that frames it, is the case coming in at a deceiving diameter of 42mm. I say deceiving because in spite of the suggestive diameter, the lug to lug clocks in at just 45mm allowing it to wear more like a 40mm and in some cases (pun intended) like its 38mm counterparts. As a bearer of a chicken wrist, this was certainly good news to me.
Beyond the numbers, the case itself is well designed and loosely resembles the twisted-lug design of the Omega Speedmaster, albeit less dramatically, but nonetheless allow a nice dance of polished and brushed surfaces. The slim, top side of the case facing the wearer being polished provides a nice contrast against the dark bezel, while the flat sides of the case are brushed thereby allowing what is usually the most exposed part of the case to handsomely mask any hairline scratches from your day to day wear.
Extending from the case, is the beads of rice bracelet on my particular SUB 200. The brushed outer links with the polished beads add contrast and visual interest while, like the case, being practical in its design. The beads play with the light wonderfully and allow the bracelet to conform perfectly to the wrist translating to a comfortable experience.
At its end, is the friction fit clasp, which to my surprise, at this price point also features a diver’s extension. It features four micro-adjustment positions to perfect the fit, however it doesn’t offer on the fly adjustment, but is a painless experience with a spring-bar tool. The clasp, feels secure, especially with the addition of the overlapping safety lock providing a worry-free fit. However, the diver’s extension simply felt flimsy and the folded hinge design of the extension wasn’t very re-assuring. But then again, from a practical standpoint, how often are you really going to use a diver’s extension?
However, if bracelets aren’t your style, the SUB 200 is now also offered on a flush fitting integrated rubber strap with a beads of rice pattern embossed onto it, providing an alternate look altogether which may be your style.
But for those of you who love to frequently change straps, the 19mm lug width (Why do manufacturers do this!?) is, for the lack of a better word, an annoying design choice. However, if you’re more of a NATO person, you can get away with sliding through a 20mm wide strap with little to no fuss. The same applies to Marine Nationale or Paratrooper straps in my experience.
The Round Up
The SUB 200 is certainly not a perfect watch and lacks all the bells and whistles of higher end pieces. But what it does, it does extremely well, and priced at $1,590 AUD, there’s little to complain about and is a fun, versatile and extremely robust watch that is an easy pick up and go choice for any day of the week. If you were ever to consider getting one of your own, but are a little apprehensive, I’d say have a glass (or six) of your poison of choice and go forth with courage, and like me, you’ll grow to love it more with each day that comes.
Doxa SUB 200 Specification:
Case Diameter: 42mm
Dial: Navy dial
Case: Solid stainless steel, screw down case back
Movement: ETA 2824-2, Automatic, self-winding
Power Reserve: Approximately 38 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds and date
Water Resistance: 20 ATM / 200 meters